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BEST BROKEN PROMISE Minneapolis 2004 - Coleman repeatedly vowed he would oppose the Bush administration's irresponsible plan to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration

In his 2002 campaign for the U.S. Senate, the oleaginous, lantern-jawed opportunist went to great lengths to position himself as a common sense moderate. Politically, this made sense. Running against Paul Wellstone (and then, for a week, Walter Mondale), Coleman needed to appease not the right--those votes were locked in--but the center. And what better way to round up that support than to inflate his green credentials? And so Coleman repeatedly vowed he would oppose the Bush administration's irresponsible plan to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. As energy analysts and environmentalists rightly observed, ANWR's oil reserves constitute only a drop in the bucket in terms of national energy consumption. Which means that even fully exploited, ANWR can do next to nothing in terms of reducing dependence on foreign sources. As one of the last pristine places, on the other hand, ANWR has immeasurable ecological value. At the start of his term, Coleman looked like he was serious about keeping his pledge. Last spring, the editorialists at the Pioneer Press praised the freshman senator for casting an anti-ANWR vote. The kudos were premature. A few short months later, Coleman announced he would be willing to reconsider the ANWR position in exchange for an $800 million federal loan package for an ill-considered "clean coal" plant on the Iron Range. As it turned out, the ANWR provisions were ultimately stripped from the outrageous, misbegotten exercise in lawmaking known as the federal energy bill. But that was no thanks to Mr. Coleman, who--all PR considerations aside--has shown a lot more yellow than green since he went to Washington.

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